Hollywood, Je t'aime

Wolfe Video,

Jason Bushman

Eric Debets,
Chad Allen,
Michael Airington,
Diarra Kilpatrick,
Jonathan Blanc,
Donovan McGrath

Unrated, 95 minutes

I Love L.A.
by Michael D. Klemm
Posted online, November 2009
A shorter version first appeared in abOUT, December, 2009

There's an old saying that goes: there's no place like home. This appears to be the underlying theme of Hollywood, Je t'aime, the debut feature film from writer/director Jason Bushman. Like The Wizard Of Oz, his movie is bookended with a framing story that is filmed in black and white. Sandwiched inbetween is a magical place where the grass is supposed to be greener over the rainbow but a harvest of weeds resides there instead.

Hollywood, Je t'aime begins in Paris. The opening scenes, filmed in rich grays and in French with subtitles, evokes an old French New Wave film from the late 50s/early 60s. The film's star even looks as if he could have been the lead in a Truffaut film; a more chiseled Charles Aznavour in Shoot The Piano Player perhaps. Eric Debets plays Jerome Beaunez, a young man who pines over his ex-lover, Gilles (Jonathan Blanc), who has left him for another man. Jerome decides to spend Christmas in California and books a flight to Los Angeles. He also dreams of finding work as an actor. Mimicking Dorothy's arrival in Oz, Jerome steps into a new world filmed in vibrant color.
But the reality doesn't live up to his dreams. The Hostel to the Stars, where he booked lodgings, turns out to be a seedy dive. He scores with a man in a gay bar but the hostel's irate Asian concierge won't allowed him to bring his trick upstairs to his single room. A bus ride to the beach takes all afternoon and, when he arrives, he discovers that the beach is cold in December and sits huddled in a blanket.

While on the beach he does, however, meet Ross (Chad Allen), a good natured pot dealer who takes him under his wing. Ross knows an agent and promises to help Jerome find some acting work. He is also befriended by a tranny hooker named Kaleesha (Diarra Kilpatrick). She introduces him to a middle-aged drag queen named Norma Desire (Michael Airington), who offers Jerome a temporary room in his "shabby chic" Silverlake home.

Throughout his adventures, he is unable to get Gilles out of his mind and imagines himself talking to his ex-lover whenever he is down - which is most of the time. Gilles appears in his bathroom, on buses, in a few erotic dream sequences. Unable to let him go, Jerome repeatedly pulls away from getting intimate with anyone in California, including both Ross and an extremely hot young man who trysts with him at the baths.
The rest of Hollywood, Je t'aime is a charming fish out of water story in which Jerome discovers that L.A. is not Oz. His first audition couldn't be more disastrous and later, when he is lucky enough to land an acting job, this turns out to be another disappointment because it is only a frozen pizza commercial. So much for being discovered in an ice cream shoppe. Los Angeles is sunny and colorful but most of the scenes are shot in its shabbier neighborhoods. Norma warns Jerome that Hollywood wants their faggots behind the camera and not in front of it. Examples of prevailing prejudice are worked into the script. A French neighbor calls Jerome and his ex "dirty faggots." A customs inspector, while not necessarily homophobic, obviously detests foreigners and gives Jerome a hard time when he arrives in Los Angeles. A drag-phobic Ross sees Jerome waiting for a bus and offers him a ride, and then invents excuses not to take Kaleesha and Norma with them.
To be honest, not very much happens in Hollywood, Je t'aime but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Instead of trotting out the usual cliched stock characters and contrived situations, this film is more grounded in reality. Not everyone's vacations turn out like the ones in commercials and it is far more believable that he doesn't meet the man of his dreams and land the lead in a Hollywood blockbuster - even if he does, like everyone tells him, look like Adrian Brody. Even so, I kept waiting for him to get it on with Chad Allen's character and was surprised, and even a bit annoyed, when it never happened.
On the plus side, Hollywood, Je t'aime is competently filmed and nicely acted by all. Director Bushman and his star worked together once before on a short film entitled Serene Hunter (included on the DVD collection, S Is For Sexy). Debets is a likable klutz as Jerome. While not possessing classic Hollywood good looks, he does resemble Adrian Brody and has a physique to die for. His deadpan demeanor recalls Buster Keaton.
Chad Allen plays his stoner part very well. Airington's Norma Desire is suitably flamboyant in drag but, unlike similar characters in other movies, tones down the fabulous a notch and refrains from playing the part over-the-top. He functions as a den mother and confidante to his charges. Kilpatrick's tragic Kaleesha sadly has the hots for Jerome, who isn't interested. I liked that her character was an African American tranny while her transitions from male to female aren't even part of the plot. At one point, she is seen waking up and her package is still discernible beneath her underwear.

This is a slice-of-life that, while not overly flashy, has its considerable charms. Those who insist on a side of beefcake won't be disappointed; Jerome often goes the full monty and there is also a hot bathhouse scene. While a few stretches could use a bit more spark, the film is an amusing comedy and the time passes quickly. It was certainly a crowd pleaser on the festival circuit and Hollywood, Je t'aime should make for a pleasing date movie.


More on Jason Busman and Eric Debets:
S Is For Sexy

Chad Allen also appears in:
Save Me
Sole Journey